Hammarskjold High School in Thunder Bay, Ont was the targeted school

Two students face multiple charges in threats against Ontario school

Officers believe the two teens were working entirely apart from one another

Two local students were behind a string of threats that promoted authorities to shut down a high school in northwest Ontario more than a dozen times, police alleged Thursday.

Det. Insp. Ryan Hughes of the Thunder Bay Police Service said an 18-year-old female student and a 14-year-old boy have been arrested in connection with the alleged incidents targeting Hammarskjold High School in Thunder Bay, Ont.

He said the pair face a total of 14 charges between them, although he said officers believe the two were working entirely apart from one another.

The multiple arrests, Hughes said, came as a surprise to local investigators.

“We just thought it was one person,” he said in a telephone interview. “But with the wording of some of the threats … we thought there may be a copycat with the other one, which proved true.”

Hughes said the woman, viewed as the primary suspect, is a current student at Hammarskjold, which he said first started receiving threats last October.

Only one was documented in 2018, but Hughes said the threats of violence at the school began in earnest on Feb. 13.

On that day, Hughes said the Crime Stoppers tip line received four threats sent in from a mobile device, establishing a pattern that would become familiar over the next two months.

He said a total of 31 threats sent on 15 separate days poured into the anonymous tip system between Feb. 13 and April 17, prompting police investigations that shut the school down on 13 separate occasions.

Hughes said that all the threats zeroed in on Hammarskjold, with one other local Catholic school referenced on a single occasion. The threats all contained references either to explosives or planned shootings on school grounds, he said.

The use of the Crime Stoppers service presented particular challenges for police, since it is designed to act as an anonymous vehicle through which people can leave information about crimes, said Hughes. As such, he said, police cannot obtain information about tipsters without judicial authorization.

READ MORE: Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

The alleged exploitation of the service, he said, represents a particularly troubling element of the case.

“It is extremely frustrating for our officers,” he said. “We’ve reached out to other cities and other police services, and they’ve never encountered what we’ve encountered.”

Hughes said investigators identified the mobile devices sending some of the threats in the past two weeks, but needed time to link them to their owners.

The charges the two teens face, he said, pertain specifically to threats made in April. More charges are expected in the coming days.

The series of threats proved highly disruptive for Lakehead Public Schools, the board overseeing Hammarskjold.

The school was shut down while police searched the grounds to verify the threats, and school officials began posting assignments online in a bid to keep students from falling behind.

Spokesman Bruce Nugent said the turmoil caused by the threats prompted the board to tighten security and communication protocols, but took a heavy toll on the community.

“Students and staff at the school are physically and emotionally worn out,” he said. “We’re pleased and hopeful that this is the end.”

The 18-year-old woman from Shuniah, Ont., is facing three counts each of public mischief reporting offence and mischief interfering with lawful use of property. The boy from Thunder Bay faces four counts each of the same charges.

READ MORE: For U.S. school shooting survivors, trauma has no time limit

Both appeared in court on Thursday morning and have been released on bail or under supervisory conditions.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Saanich School District parents welcome end of strike

Various sides of support worker strike acknowledge remaining tensions

Two Sidney seniors struck by vehicle with foggy windows in marked crosswalk

Driver fined for failure to yield, limited visibility caused by foggy windows

Escaped Metchosin inmate sentenced to additional year tacked on to 14-year sentence

Man escaped from William Head Institution arrested days later in Esquimalt

Peninsula Panthers lose two straight for first time in season

Panthers have now lost five games, including three against the Victoria Cougars

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

EDITORIAL: It’s time to face the truth on drug use

The homeless don’t own the drug epidemic

B.C. pushes for greater ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

B.C. petition calls for seat belts in new school buses

Agassiz bus driver collects 124,000 signatures in support

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

Campbell River RCMP officer assaulted during traffic stop

Officer expected to make a full recovery; had been conducting impaired driving investigation alone

Most Read